Debate Topics for Teens

Participating in a debate about a current event or controversial issue can do more than encourage teenagers to practice their public speaking. Debate can also help students develop better research, critical thinking, reasoning and writing skills, according to Homeschool World 1. Entice teens to debate by choosing a topic that can affect their interests, future or daily life.

Teen Violence

Because teenagers can face school bullying, gang violence or even school shootings, suggest focusing on the causes or effects of teen violence. For example, notes that in 2008, half of the top-selling video games in the United States -- often played by 12- to 17-year olds -- featured violence 3. Debaters could address whether violence depicted in video games, movies and television programs desensitize teens and encourage violent acts or merely provide a way for teens to harmlessly expend their aggressive feelings without hurting anyone 3.

Art Education

Budget cuts affecting schools often result in the elimination of art and music programs. Students might enjoy debating the value of art programs versus the amount of money they require. For instance, although some people might argue that the arts aren’t as vital as math and literature, other sources, such as a 2012 article on the KCET website, “Can Schools Provide Arts Education on a Tight Budget,” note that there is a correlation between art education and higher test scores, better attendance and improved critical thinking skills 2.

School Uniforms

Whether the teens are required to wear school uniforms to class or have freedom of choice when it comes to clothing, ask them to debate the merits of a school uniform requirement 4. Debaters supporting the “pro” side of the uniform argument could discuss ways that uniforms reduce the distraction of the opposite sex wearing provocative clothing or lessen student stress since teens won’t feel pressured to wear the latest designer clothing. The “con” side of the debate could address the financial burden that uniforms might cause impoverished families or how uniforms don’t allow students to express their individuality.

Campus Security

In response to increased school violence, some districts are taking extra security precautions, such as installing metal detectors and searching backpacks and lockers. Teens might wish to debate the value of the increased security versus the effect it has on the school environment, budget and students’ right to privacy. For instance, although tactics such as metal detectors might provide a feeling of security, they require substantial funding and maintenance and still won’t ensure the students’ safety 100 percent, according to National School Safety and Security Services.


Because many debate topics touch on controversial issues, check with school administrators, teachers or debate coordinators to ensure the topic doesn’t violate any school or district regulations. In addition, debates about provocative issues are often intense, so Homeschool World notes that debaters should learn to use the proper manners and behavior to ensure both sides treat one another with respect 1.

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